Weekly Wrap: June 04, 2020

04 June 2020

The information in the Weekly Wrap is aggregated from other news sources to provide you with news that is relevant to the education sector across Australia and worldwide. Each paragraph is a summary of the subject matter covered in the particular news article. The information does not necessarily reflect the views of CompliSpace.



Children are back at school — but what about coughs and colds amid coronavirus?

The ABC News reports that while children who are sick are typically encouraged to stay home anyway, health authorities have taken the view that, amid coronavirus, it's better to be overly cautious. Specific recommendations might differ between states, but authorities are urging parents to get children with coughs, colds, fevers, loss of smell and other symptoms checked. Getting children tested is one thing, but the question of what parents of sick kids should do — and whether they need to isolate as they await their children's test results — is slightly more complicated. In Victoria, for example, the advice is that "all members of the household should self-isolate until test results are confirmed". But in Queensland, parents have been advised they "will only need to self-isolate if they are showing symptoms", while South Australian authorities have said "the rest of the household does not need to self-isolate during this time, if they are well". This echoes current federal advice.


Recess key to reopening schools – experts

The Educator reports that education researchers and leaders from around the world are raising a call for recess and free time to be considered essential as children face readjustment to school. The structure and significance of recess must be prioritised as schools reopen, and by rethinking recess, schools can address transmission risks at the same time as increasing developmental benefits. Dr Brendon Hyndman of Charles Sturt University is the Australian representative for this international group, which calls itself the Global Recess Alliance. The group has drawn on decades of research and experience to put together a new statement that outlines how recess can help guide both students and teachers back to a sense of normalcy after months of interrupted routines. The group has been working on a set of guidelines and suggestions to help schools integrate recess into their re-opening plans, and to make it as pandemic-proof as possible. Amongst them? Seeing recess as essential to teachers as well as students.


Boarding students and schools frustrated by ongoing restrictions, leaving thousands learning at home

The ABC News reports that almost 7,500 boarding students are still at home due to current COVID-19 restrictions, with concern they are falling behind their peers. Australian Boarding Schools Association CEO, Richard Stokes, estimated about one third of boarding school students across the country were still at home. He said despite plans being in place to deal with any COVID-19 outbreak, schools were frustrated with national health regulations. Mr Stokes said like many other businesses, the pandemic would have a major impact on finances for the country's 200 boarding schools. He said of the 3,500 international boarding students who attended Australian schools, about 2,000 remained overseas. The Federal Minister for Regional Education, Andrew Gee, said while the issue is largely a state and territory matter, he had been in contact with his state colleagues to make representations. He said the issue will be discussed at an upcoming session of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.


“Teaching culture through culture”

The Educator reports that earlier this year, the 12th Closing the Gap report, found that Aboriginal children still trail far behind non-Indigenous children in literacy, numeracy and writing skills. While some year levels showed mixed progress, the report found that only two of the seven targets are rated as currently “on track”. They were the target to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025, and the target to halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20 to 24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020. The report’s findings were met with renewed calls for fresh approaches to the situation. Representing one such alternative, education researchers at the University of South Australia recently completed a study of an Adelaide public school program with very promising outcomes. Dr Jamie Huff Sisson, Associate Professor Victoria Whitington and Anne-Marie Shin qualitatively assessed inclusive teaching practices at a small primary school, examining the impacts of a project that worked with local Aboriginal community members, families, children and staff to create a culturally relevant teaching framework.


COAG preschool review highlights “adverse” effects of funding uncertainty

The Age reports that a confidential report for Australia's education ministers has urged the federal government to lock in five years of funding for preschools or face a system compromised by inefficiency and high staff turnover. Short-term renewals of a national partnership on preschool funding every year or second year have "adversely" affected the otherwise successful strategy, according to a review commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments and obtained by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. The review of the Universal Access National Partnership found it had ushered in "remarkable" advancements, with enrolment in 600 hours of preschool in the year before school climbing from 12 per cent of children in 2008 to 95 per cent in 2018. The review's overarching finding was that funding should be provided under a new five-year partnership starting in 2021, with ongoing national co-ordination by the federal government and reduced reliance on performance-based payments.


NSW government secretly paid millions to victims of a teacher it admits was a paedophile

The Guardian reports that the New South Wales government has quietly paid out millions of dollars to more than a dozen former schoolchildren who it admits were abused by a paedophile teacher who rose through the ranks of the state’s public school system over three decades while preying on young Indigenous boys. Since April 2018 lawyers from the state’s education department have signed out-of-court settlements with 14 men from across western NSW. The department has never publicly disclosed the settlements, which in some cases included confidentiality clauses preventing disclosure of the value of the payouts. But documents seen by Guardian Australia during a months-long investigation can reveal the Department of Education unequivocally accepted the men were victims of Cletus O’Connor, a teacher, principal and school inspector who worked throughout the state from the 1950s to the 80s. In a statement, the department said each settlement had followed the government’s “guiding principles for responding to civil claims for child sexual abuse”.


Schools get power to ban extremist, predatory or violent students

The Daily Telegraph reports that extremist, predatory or violent students can now be banned from schools, in the biggest shake-up of education safety laws in three decades. Banned students will be forced to enrol in distance education, where they will be monitored and taught online from home while the danger they pose to classmates and teachers is assessed. Originally intended to protect schools from students who have displayed violent extremism and support for terrorism, The Sunday Telegraph understands the new powers will now apply to cyber-bullying and sexting both in and out of school. It is also understood students on bail for sexual crimes will not be allowed to return to the same school as their victim. Department bureaucrats and principals have been thrashing out the details since former education minister Rob Stokes first floated the law 2½ years ago. Students banned from school will not be able to appeal to their principals but will instead have to plead their case directly to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).


Calls to ramp up scrutiny of teacher performance

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that just 34 teachers were dismissed for poor performance by the NSW Department of Education last year, sparking calls for better oversight of the state's educators to improve outcomes for students. New data from the department showed the number of teachers dismissed actually increased to hit a 10-year high in 2019, out of an available workforce of 90,000. Fewer than 600 teachers have been dismissed from the Department over the past 11 years, with 179 leaving because they failed an improvement program. The same number were convicted of serious charges, and 171 were sacked for sexual misconduct. Principals and the union said the data did not reflect the true numbers of teachers leaving because of performance issues, as many quit before the formal process finished. But the figures come after an auditor-general's report found flaws in the Department's monitoring of teacher quality across the state's 2200 public schools, and said it was not doing enough to help teachers improve.


Education Department IT manager directed $14m of work to his own company

The Age reports that a senior project manager in Victoria’s Department of Education and Training misused his position for more than a decade to direct almost $14 million worth of work to a company he owned, the state’s anti-corruption watchdog says. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission said its investigation had also uncovered serious failures of supervision in the department's senior ranks, which allowed the project manager to improperly benefit from his position for many years. The available evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges, IBAC said. The project manager repeatedly claimed when interviewed by IBAC that he had told people he was the director of the company. However, he failed to declare his conflict of interest in writing. IBAC’s report on Operation Betka was tabled in State Parliament last Wednesday. IBAC has recommended the Department of Education and Training "address the corruption vulnerabilities identified in Operation Betka" and advise the watchdog how it will ensure that employees fully declare any conflict of interest.


Flexible and remote learning in Victorian schools could be permanent

The Herald Sun reports that principals have unveiled their ideas for schools of the future as they plan to keep aspects from remote learning. School leaders are already adopting changes from distance education as the State Government announced a summit to explore lessons learnt. The Herald Sun understands some regional high schools are considering allowing students to learn from home one day a week, to reduce travel or captivate children otherwise disengaged or with anxiety. Schools have discussed ideas of having some classroom teachers move to remote instruction to educate pupils who remain home. It’s expected schools will survey students’ results from home learning before they decide to make any change to on-site education. Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Sue Bell said more schools would hold staff meetings on Zoom, or continue to run Facebook Live or Youtube Live streaming to communicate with families. Education Minister James Merlino said the summit would involve public, Catholic and independent schools.


Tasmania's School Canteens Association wants state to trial school lunches to “create food security”

The ABC News reports that the head of Tasmania's School Canteens Association, Julie Dunbabin has returned from a Churchill Fellowship trip, looking at the lunchtime habits of schools around the world. She visited schools in Europe, the United States and Asia, where all students were served a fresh, sit-down lunch. Ms Dunbabin said providing meals not only ensured children ate lunch but that they ate a healthy one. "There was a real link to the local farmer, so it was very much vegetable and fruit-based," she said. "And you saw those beautiful social skills — children using knives and forks, and pouring water for each other." An ABC study of lunchboxes at two Melbourne schools last year found children were mostly being fed white bread sandwiches and packaged snacks, both high in sugar. A spokesperson for the Department of Education said it was not considering providing lunches to students and that its schools already promoted healthy eating through its accreditation program, as well as kitchen garden and school breakfast programs.


Multiple contempt trials loom over reporting of Pell's conviction

The Age reports that contempt of court charges against media organisations over their reporting of George Pell's conviction on sexual abuse charges could be divided into as many as 13 separate trials, based on the number of "separate controversies" alleged. Thirty journalists and news organisations are accused by Victorian prosecutors of breaching a suppression order imposed by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd, which in December 2018 prevented the media from reporting the guilty verdicts a jury reached against the cardinal. Lawyers for the media organisations and prosecutors are still working through pre-trial issues, the Supreme Court heard on Tuesday last week, and Justice John Dixon encouraged the parties to resolve some of the issues in dispute so a trial could start. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are among of the media organisations facing contempt charges. In March last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, QC, filed more than 200 charges against 36 journalists and news organisations, but most of those charges have since been withdrawn.



Home schooling boosts parents' interest in teaching as a career (United Kingdom)

The Guardian reports that school closures have turned the UK into a nation of temporary teachers since the coronavirus lockdown – and that may have inspired some people to seek new careers in the classroom, according to a new survey. Now Teach, the charity co-founded by the former journalist Lucy Kellaway, encourages older workers to change careers, and has found that the lockdown has increased the status of school teachers among the population at large. The survey of 2,000 UK adults found that 3 per cent said they had “been thinking about becoming a teacher and I wasn’t before the coronavirus lockdown”, while a further 5 per cent agreed that they had been “already thinking about becoming a teacher before the coronavirus lockdown but I’m thinking about it more seriously now”. “While 3 per cent might not sound significant, Kellaway points out that across the UK population as a whole that would amount to more than enough recruits to solve any teaching shortages in Britain’s schools for a generation.


Race relations commissioner speaks out over student's blackface selfie (New Zealand)

Radio New Zealand reports that New Zealand's Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon wants an Auckland high school to apologise and educate a student who wore black face. The all-girls school is investigating after one of its students sent a blackface selfie with a caption including the n-word to friends over Snapchat during lockdown. The image has been shared widely online and caused outrage with many social media users, who called on the school to take a stand against racism. Foon said he was disappointed and expected the school, the girl and her parents to learn about the impact and harm caused by her actions. Anti-bullying program KiVa was finishing its controlled trials to drive down racism and Foon hoped to see more schools access this. He was hopeful there could be further change if racial issues were taught, after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced late last year that New Zealand history will be taught in all schools and kura by 2022. A nationwide campaign, Give Nothing to Racism, will be launched in July.


Parents warned after paedophiles caught hijacking Zoom school lessons (United States)

According to 7news, exactly one month after Queensland school children were subjected to graphic pornography during their Zoom school lessons, US authorities have received reports of paedophiles using the popular video chat service. The FBI says it has received more than 240 reports of people disrupting Zoom sessions by broadcasting videos depicting child sexual abuse. The FBI is now enlisting the public’s help in identifying more such incidents, known as “Zoom-bombing”. In a notice released last Wednesday, the agency provided an online questionnaire to be filled out by anyone who has been exposed to child abuse videos during a Zoom session. “The FBI considers this activity to be a violent crime, as every time child sexual abuse material is viewed, the depicted child is revictimised,” the notice says. Throughout the pandemic, authorities around the world have received a range of reports of Zoom “hijackers” broadcasting pornographic or hateful images during video conferences.

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